We Remember Babi Yar!
Babi Yar: Killing Ravine of Kiev Jewry – WWII
No Gravestone Stands in Babi Yar
BABI YAR By Yevgeni Yevtushenko, Translalted to English by Benjamin Okopnik
3. A Map
3 Pictures: Massacre at Babi Yar
Nothing is Forgotten
Wiesenthal Tolerance Museum: BABI YAR
BABI YAR, ravine, situated in the northwestern part of Kiev, where the Jews of the Ukrainian capital were systematically massacred. At the southern end of the ravine were two cemeteries, one of which was Jewish.
Kiev was captured by the Twenty-ninth Corps and the Sixth German Army on September 19, 1941. Of its Jewish population of 160,000, some 100,000 had managed to flee before the Germans took the city. Shortly after the German takeover, from September 24 to 28, a considerable number of buildings the city center, which were being used by German military administration and the army, were blown up; many Germans (as well as local inhabitants) were killed in the explosions. After the war, it was learned that the sabotage operation had been the work of NKVD (Soviet security police) detachment that had been left behind in the city for that purpose.
On September 26, the Germans held a meeting at which it was decided that in retaliation for the attacks on the German-held installations, the Jews of Kiev would all be put to death. Participating in the meeting were the military governor, Maj. Gen. Friedrich Georg Eberhardt; the Higher SS and Police Leader at Rear Headquarters Army Group South, SS Obergruppenfuhrer Friedrich JECKELN; the officer commanding Einsatzgruppe C, SS-Brigadefuhrer Dr. Otto RASCH; and the officer commanding Sonderkommando 4a, SS-Standartenfuhrer Paul BLOBEL.
The implementation of the decision to kill all the Jews of Kiev was entrusted to Sonderkommando 4a. This unit consisted of SD (Sicherheitsdienst; Security Service) and Sicherheitspolizei (Security Police; Sipo) men; the third company of the Special Duties Waffen-SS battalion; and a platoon of the No. 9 police battalion. The unit was reinforced by police battalions Nos. 45 and 305 and by units of the Ukrainian auxiliary police.
On September 28, notices were posted in the city ordering the Jews to appear the following morning, September 29, at 8:00 a.m. at the corner of Melnik and Dekhtyarev streets; they were being assembled there, so the notice said, for their resettlement in new locations. (The text had been prepared by Propaganda Company No.637 and the notices had been printed by the Sixth Army printing press.)
The next morning, masses of Jews reported at the appointed spot. They were directed to proceed along Melnik Street toward the Jewish cemetery and into an area comprising the cemetery itself and a part of the Babi Yar ravine. The area was cordoned off by a barbed-wire fence and guarded by Sonderkommando police and Waffen-SS men, a well as by Ukrainian policemen. As the Jews approached the ravine, they were forced to hand over all the valuables in their possession, to take off all their clothes, and to advance toward the ravine edge, in groups of ten. When they reached the edge, they were gunned down by automatic fire. The shooting was done by several squads of SD and Sipo personnel, police, and Waffen-SS men of the Sonderkommando unit, the squads relieving one another every few hours. When the day ended, the bodies were covered with a thin layer of soil. According to official reports of the Einsatzgruppe, in two days of shooting (September 29 and 30), 33,771 Jews were murdered.
In the months that followed, many more thousands of Jews were seized, taken to Babi Yar, and shot. Among the general population there were some who helped Jews go into hiding, but there were also a significant number who informed on them to the Germans and gave them up. After the war, the officer in charge of the Sipo and SD bureau testified that his Kiev office received so many letters from the Ukrainian population informing on Jews - "by the bushel" - that the office could not deal with them all, for lack of manpower. Evidence of betrayal of Jews by the Kiev population was also given by Jewish survivors and by the Soviet writer Anatoly Kuznetsov.
Babi Yar served as a slaughterhouse for non-Jews as well, such as GYPSIES and Soviet prisoners of war. According to the estimate given by the Soviet research commission on Nazi crimes, 100,000 persons were murdered at Babi Yar.
In July 1943, by which time the Red Army was on the advance, Paul Blobel came back to Kiev. He was now on a new assignment, in coordination with SS-Gruppenfuhrer Dr. Max Thomas, the officer commanding the SD and Sipo in the Ukraine: that of erasing all evidence of the mass carnage that the Nazis had perpetrated. For this purpose, Blobel formed two special groups, identified by the code number 1005. Unit 1005-A was made up of eight to ten SD men and thirty German policemen, and was under the command of an SS-Obersturmbannfuhrer named Baumann. In mid-August the unit embarked on its task of exhuming the corpses in Babi Yar and cremating them. The ghastly job itself was carried out by inmates of a nearby concentration camp (Syretsk), from which the Germans brought in 327 men, of whom 100 were Jews. The prisoners were housed in a bunker carved out from the ravine wall; it had an iron gate that was locked during the night and was watched by a guard w! ith a machine gun. They had chains bolted to their legs, and those who fell ill or lagged behind were shot on the spot. The mass graves were opened up by bulldozers, and it was the prisoners' job to drag the corpses to cremation pyres, which consisted of wooden logs doused in gasoline on a base of railroad ties. The bones that did not respond to incineration were crushed, for which purpose the Nazis brought in tombstones from the Jewish cemetery. The ashes were sifted to retrieve any gold or silver they might have contained. Cremation of the corpses began on August 18 and went on for six weeks, ending on September 19, 1943. The Nazis did their job thoroughly, and when they were through no trace was left of the mass graves.
On the morning of September 29, the prisoners learned that they were about to be put to death. They already had a plan for escape, and resolved to put it into effect the same night. Shortly after midnight, under cover of darkness and the fog that enveloped the ravine, twenty-five prisoners broke out. Fifteen succeeded in making their escape; the others were shot during the attempt or on the following morning.
It took a long time after the war for a memorial to be erected at Babi Yar. The demand for a memorial was first voiced during the "thaw" that set in during the Khrushchev regime, by which time Babi Yar had become a place of pilgrimage. Among those wmade this demawere the writers IlyViktor Nekrasov, but their call was not heeded. In 1961, the poet Yevgeni Yevtushenko published a poem, "Babi Yar," which begins with the lines:
No gravestone stands on Babi Yar;
Only coarse earth heaped roughly on the gash:
Such dread comes over me
A year later, Dmitri Shostakovich set the poem to music, incorporating it into his Thirteenth Symphony. (Under pressure from the authorities, changes were made in the original text, and it is the amended text that is used today when the symphony is performed in the Soviet Union.) Both the poem and the musical setting had a tremendous impact in the Soviet Union, as well as beyond its borders. Demands increased for a memorial to be built at Babi Yar, but it was not until 1966 that architects and artists were invited to submit proposals, and it took eight more years for the memorial to be built. Since 1974 a monument stands in Babi Yar, but the inscription does not mention that Jews were among the victims there.
Monument erected in 1966 at Babi Yar. The Ukrainian text reads: "On this site there will be a monument for the victims of fascism (during the German occupation of Kiev, 1941 - 1943."
7.Babi Yar Revolt
Starting August 18th 1943, the Germans headed by Blobel erased traces by removing the corpses and burnt them in furnaces made of the tombstones of the nearby Jewish cemetery. For 6 weeks a group of chained prisoners, Jews and Soviet prisoners of war, doomed to death as well, was forced to perform the operation.
From Martin Gilbert's book "Holocaust":
... As the historian Reuben Ainsztein has written,
29 September 1943 - 2 years after the massacre, the 325 forced-laborers in Babi Yar revolt and break out. 311 were shot down as they run. Only 14 survived. Among them were:
YFyodor Zavertanny (escaped before)
8.Memorial to Babi Yar in U.S.A.
Alan G. Gass, FAIA, President of the Babi Yar Park Foundation:
We built a memorial park to the Babi Yar massacre in Denver, CO. It was dedicated in 1982, with an inscribed black granite entrance gateway, a "People Place" amphitheatre, a "Forest that Remembers" with a spring flowing all year in the middle, and a high-walled, narrow black bridge over a ravine, all at three points of a Mogen David carved out of the native pairie grasses. It is owned and maintained by the City & County of Denver. The park is used by the recently arrived immigrants from Russia and the former Soviet Union as a place of remembrance during the year and with a special ceremony on 29 September each year.
9. Memorial to Babi Yar in Israel
In "Nachlat Itzhak" Cemetery in Givataiim Israel, standsa memorial to the victims of Babi Yar. It is located near the Treblinka Monument. There is annual ceremony on Yom Ha'sShoa, Holocaust Day.
Last Updated January 24th, 2003